Turn Back the Clock
Television Series / DVD Review
Third Watch: Season One
Distributed By: Warner Bros. Entertainment
First Aired On: NBC
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When the television series Third Watch first hit the air waves, I had been working law enforcement for three years. I had friends who worked EMS and others who were volunteer firemen. In fact, an FDNY engine company was right next door to my place of employment, so we chatted quite often. This series was supposed to give us a glimpse into how all three elements – police, firefighters and paramedics – worked together in New York City. I simply had to check this show out.
The very first episode of Third Watch had me sold on the series. There were just so many things there that were true to the job. I could tell that the creators of this show had done their homework. I would later learn that they had used actual firefighters and police as consultants. This show had everything that those of us who had worked on the Third Watch (3PM – 11PM or 4PM – 12AM) were used to. Anyone who has worked the shift knows that it’s one of the busiest shifts in New York City. This is when the shit hits the fan – rush hour accidents, alcohol-induced muscle matches outside bars, out of control fires started by faulty heaters – these are the hours when things are hopping. I worked this shift for eight years and I can honestly say that, while there was some down time, for the most part, when the action happened, it was non-stop.
Third Watch’s first episode threw viewers right into the mix. We were introduced to the police, firefighters and paramedics whose headquarters borders the fictional locale of King and Arthur. (There are actual streets in New York City with those names – they just don’t intersect.) The episode opened with the men and women of “Camelot” getting down and dirty right at the start of their shift. Viewers got to see what it’s like being a rookie paramedic working his first nasty car accident. They learned what it’s like for a rookie cop on his first day of patrol. They saw what it’s like for firemen running into full-blown fires, never knowing if this fire might be their last. They learned about the danger involved for any first responder – not just cops – when there is a weapon involved.
But Third Watch wasn’t just about showing viewers the drama…the horrors…of working the third shift. It was also about the camaraderie, the family issues, the politics of the jobs. The makers of Third Watch wanted viewers to see what the jobs were like on personal levels – guys and girls trying to make ends meet, trying to have a family life outside of a very demanding job on an equally demanding shift, people truly caring for people. They also wanted viewers to see the lighter moments – the practical jokes, the nicknames, the tom-foolery – the kind of stuff that takes place to help lighten the burden of the harsher moments of the job.
I was sold on the first episode of Third Watch, but each episode of the first season just seemed to get better. There was a focus on the human side of the job. That was what made this show different from most. Yes, there were crime scenes and fires and accidents, but the show focused more on the way these things affected the humanity of the police, firefighters and paramedics called to the scene. Third Watch wasn’t a cop show – crimes happened on a show to show basis, never stretching over more than one episode. Sure, you would see certain characters again, but they were involved in something different in each episode. This was realistic – if you walk a beat day after day, you’re bound to run into the same individuals hanging out on the same corners.
When I received the Third Watch: Season One on DVD, I was in my glory. I was a fan of the show and had seen every episode ever aired until its last aired new episode in 2005. But that didn’t end my love affair with Third Watch. I watched it in syndication and watched previously taped episodes over and over again, hoping some day to buy a DVD collection of my favorite show. My hopes weren’t answered until the year 2008, but I’m certainly not complaining.
Within days of receiving Third Watch: Season One, I had already popped the first of 6 DVDs in the player. By the end of the first episode, I already had another person hooked on the show. We watched every episode on the DVD – 22 in all – the gag reel and The Nights of Camelot retrospective featurette. When it was over my friend said, where’s Season 2. I had to let her down easy – Season Two of Third Watch isn’t out on DVD yet…but I do have it on tape.
The fact of the matter is, I had hooked someone who had never worked in law enforcement, the fire department or as a paramedic. All of the guys and gals on my job watched and loved the show and so did my friends who worked as firefighters and EMTs. But here was a civilian who could enjoy the show differently. While folks that worked the jobs could get enjoyment from being able to relate to what happened in each episode, folks who never worked these jobs could get enjoyment simply from the terrific stories in each episode.
In watching the retrospective featurette and learning what went into making Third Watch, I have to give kudos to the creators. It was a stroke of genius to combine police, fire and paramedics rather than simply focusing on one department or the other. This was totally unchartered territory and it’s what made Third Watch unique. Using actual police and firefighters as consultants was also a stroke of genius in that it ensured that much of the show would be believable. Having them appear in cameos and sometimes recurring roles was just as intelligent. Who better to play a fireman than a real fireman, right?
I also have to thank them for creating such terrific characters and then casting them with actors who somehow made viewers forget they were watching a fictional drama. The actors were so believable in their roles that it is sometimes hard to see them on other television shows now that Third Watch is over. Skip Sudduth as veteran cop John “Sully” Sullivan, Coby Bell as Tyrone Davis, Jr, a rookie cop following in his deceased father’s footsteps, Jason Wiles as the off-the-wall cop Maurice “Bosco” Boscorelli and his partner Faith Yokas as portrayed by Molly Price, Anthony Ruivivar as rookie paramedic Carlos Nieto, Michael Beach as Monte “Doc” Parker, Kim Raver as paramedic Kim Zambrano, Bobby Cannavale as paramedic Bobby Caffey, Eddie Cibrian as firefighter Jimmy Doherty – each one of these actors played their roles with such incredible believability that you found yourself wanting to know more and more about their characters as the show went on.
Sometimes when dealing with series collection DVDs, the DVD quality falls short and sometimes the extras just aren’t what they should be. Well, I can honestly say that I only have one complaint – one of the episodes is out of order. That’s it. One of the episodes was placed on the DVD set later than it should have been causing a slight issue in continuity. Other than that, this is a great DVD collection. The gag reel is cute, but not over the top. There are no deleted scenes, but frankly, I expected anything that might have been deleted to be in the gag reel, so I didn’t miss them. The featurette was informative and brought back some of the actors to talk about their roles on the show. Even the original songs used in the original airing of each show were used. All too often, this doesn’t happen – some snafu in the music rights causes a change in one song or another when the show is remastered for DVD. But all of Third Watch: Season One’s original songs are used. Episodes are not shortened. Everything is just the same as I remember it to be. I loved watching Third Watch: Season One on DVD and I can’t wait for the powers that be to award us with Season Two! Hurry up, folks! We want more!